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Nebraska Moves to Seek No Child Left Behind Waiver

Some states—including Utah—have contemplated getting rid of the waivers they've received from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. But Nebraska is headed in the opposite direction.

The Cornhusker State is poised to apply for the flexibility. In fact, its state board of education voted last Friday to submit the waiver application, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  

Some waiverless states—including California, Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—have submitted waiver applications that haven't yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Education, or have withdrawn their applications once they realized they would not be able to reach an accord with the feds. But Nebraska has pretty much been on the waiver sidelines since the beginning.

The state, which is also one of only a small handful that never adopted the common-core standards, began to reconsider eschewing the waiver in part because state officials saw that the feds had become more flexible on waiver agreements, including on provisions related to teacher evaluation through student outcomes, Matthew Blomstedt, the education commissoner, told me in an interview in November.

It's unclear if Nebraska will ultimately get the flexibility. As of last fall, its teacher evaluation system looked different from the federal requirements, in part because it is an optional framework that districts can choose to adopt or not.

But just going through the waiver application process will help Nebraska think through how it wants to proceed on issues like accountability and school improvement until Congress is able to pass a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which the NCLB law is the most recent iteration, Blomstedt told me in November.

Indeed, the state has made some changes to its accountability system that were also approved by the state board Friday. And those changes will stick no matter what happens with the waiver application, or a possible rewrite of the NCLB law, said Valorie Foy, director of assessment and accountability for the Nebraska Department of Education, according to the World-Herald.

The new policies in Nebraska sound somewhat similar to the accountability approaches other states have taken under waivers. Schools will be rated as either excellent, great, good, and needs improvement. And the system will take student growth into account, according to the World-Herald.

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